Family films to see at the cinema
Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family PLUS trailers for upcoming films! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.
New releases out now
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (12A)
Set in 1992 (and serving as a prequel to The Last Stand), the X-Men are now national heroes and when something goes wrong with a space shuttle mission, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) are despatched by Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to save them. However, in the process, Jean is flooded with a powerful cosmic force. It should have killed her, but she survives and is return ed to Earth where a medical shows her to be rather more than fine.
The force has interacted with her own powers, to the extent that she’s now the most powerful being on the planet. Unfortunately, she’s not in control of them and when memories Xavier suppressed when she was orphaned in a car crash as a child start to return, things tale a turn for the worse. On top of which, led by Vuk (Jessica Chastain) a shape-shifting alien race want to drain the Phoenix power so they can take Earth for themselves.
Turning her back on the X-Men, a tragedy sees Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the Beast, on a revenge-driven attempt to kill her while the other X-Men try to reach the inner Jean and everything culimates in a battle with the Vuk in an explosive New York show down followed by the climax aboard a speeding train.
The culimation of the franchise, it sees the death of two major characters, but it lacks the emotional punch of Wolverine’s send-off in Logan and, even though it effectively welds the narrative and dazzling effects together, the film never really soars as it should. 113 mins Also in 3D and IMAX 3D
LGWTC Guidance: It may be the end, but it’s no Endgame.
The sequel to the 2014 reboot is 90% special effects action and 10% plot, but then who goes to a movie about a radiation-breathing giant lizard for the subtleties of the script! Picking things up five years on, having lost their son in Godzilla’s San Francisco rampage, scientists Emma (Vera Farmiga) and Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler) are now divorced, but she’s still working for the titan-seeking agency Monarch with teenage daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown). Together they invented the Orca, an audio device that can help communicate with the monsters, but as she’s testing it out on Mothra, the facility’s invaded by British Army colonel turned eco-terrorist Jonah Alan (Charles Dance) and she and Madison taken captive.
A series of peril-fraught globetrotting visits to various holding facilities, the cast list dwindling as it goes, scattered among the spectacular destruction set pieces as assorted monsters go head to head, trashing cities wholesale in their path, there’s a smattering of human stories, including a couple of sacrifices to save the planet, but these are essentially just window dressing to the main event as it builds to its mega-sized climax and the end-titles set up for next year’s sequel Godzilla vs. Kong.
132 mins Also in D and IMAX 3D
LGWTC Guidance: Long live the King
The 1992 animation featuring a manic Robin Williams was an instant classic. Now, the jawdroppingly 130 minute live action remake mirrors the recent Dumbo in being enjoyable but not a patch on the original. Working with his monkey accomplice, the orphaned Aladdin (Mena Massoud), a light-fingered thief in the city of Agrabah meets Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who’s stolen out of the palace in disguise to see how her people live although he’s under the impression she’s actually the princess’s handmaiden.
Some of the original songs have been resurrected, sometimes given a Bollywood makeover, although A Whole New World never soars, while this Jasmine is an empowered woman and gets a new number called Speechless about, well, having a voice. Give Williams’s brilliance, Smith has an almost impossible job in making the Genie his own, but largely pulls it off with a Fresh Prince brand of swagger. Although the overlong running time will test the patience of younger kids, this has enough action and magic to sustain it to the feelgood finale, though hopefully Disney’s remake trend takes a turn for the better with the upcoming The Lion King. 128 mins Also in 3D
LGWTC Guidance: It’s a kinda magic
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (U)
A rare case of the sequel surpassing the original, this interweaves three storylines, satisfyingly bringing them together for a thrilling train chase climax. His owner now married with a new baby, Jack Russell Max (Patton Oswalt) has bonded with the kid but is overwhelmed with anxieties about New York life but when he, slobbery Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and the family head off to a farm for a holiday, gruff but cool sheepdog Rooster (Harrison Ford) helps him overcome his fears.
Vibrantly colourful, the film features some well-observed moments of animal behaviour and how closely it can resemble that of humans (reinforced by the end credit real life pet and owner clips) and their neuroses. Laced with lightly-handled life lessons, mixing together kid-friendly jokes about pooping in boots and weeing up trees with more anarchic and subtly subversive adult touches, this is a real treat. 92 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Pet perfection
Detective Pikachu (PG)
A live action resurrection of the Pokémon series, when top detective Harry Goodman goes missing, his grown son Tim (Justice Smith) sets out to find him, aided by his dad’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), sporting Sherlock Holmes-style deerstalker. As the adventure takes them through the sprawling streets of Ryme City, where humans and Pokémon live side by side, they uncover a conspiracy that could put an end to this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe. It’s debatable whether the world was waiting to revive the Japanese anime franchise, but the trailer suggests that it’s going to be hyper-realisitic tongue in cheek fun and the fact that out yellow furball is voiced by Deadpool himself, has to be a plus in anyone’s book.
A film noir for kids it has a knowing sense of humour to complement the often dizzying action sequences while the plot wanders through some inevitable father-son issues before a somewhat obvious twist. Great fun, the prospect of a sequel is actually something to look forward to rather than dread. 104 mins
LGWTC Guidance: Pokémon Go
Avengers End Game (12A)
The year’s most eagerly anticipated film from Marvel while their characters, along with 50% of all human life on Earth, had been killed off by Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Infinity War, they would inevitably be resurrected in the sequel. The question wasn’t if, but how. The answer is a breathtaking three-hour epic that draws together strands from previous films, interweaving them into an emotionally-charged climax that brings the current saga to a fitting close.
After assorted struggles and an act of sacrifice, they do, indeed reverse the process. But there’s still a twist to come that sets up the final epic confrontation between Thanos and his hordes and, well, pretty much every super-hero from the Disney Marvel Universe, as the likes of Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) get to weigh in too. Indeed, anyone who’s ever been in one of the films – or TV spin-offs – puts in appearance, there’s even an amusing cameo from the late Stan Lee.
Along with the grand-scale action, there’s plenty of the humour, particular highlights including a drunk Thor and Hulk/Banner posing for a selfie with fans, not to mention several flourishes, one involving Thor’s hammer, likely to raise cheers from the audience, but there’s also tear-jerking sadness as the film draws a heroic line under or passes the torch in certain franchises. The culmination to everything the twenty-two films have been building, it redefines the term ‘spectacle’ while having a heart so big it needs an IMAX screen to contain it.
Fittingly, there no bonus end credit scenes pointing to the future, but whatever paths it takes and whatever new partnerships are forged there’ll be a legion assembled to follow. 181 mins. Also in 3D and IMAX 3D
Family films in Cinemas now!
Disney’s 1941 classic about the baby elephant whose oversized ears enable him to fly is the latest to get the live action treatment, but, directed by Tim Burton, it’s as ponderously drab as it looks onscreen. In the original, Dumbo never flew until the final moments of wonderment, here it happens early on, rendering the subsequent flying scenes increasingly less magical.
It’s 1919 and Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns from the front minus an arm, his wife having died in his absence, to rejoin his two children, science-obsessed Milly (Nico Parker) and the younger Joe ( Finley Hobbins), and the circus where he was the star trick-rider attraction.
Stuffed with familiar Disney messages about family, faith in yourself and how being different doesn’t made you a freak, although Dumbo looking scared in his clown makeup on a circus platform might prompt a slight twinge in the heart while, it never hits any high emotional notes, reinforced by a final sequence of Dumbo and his mom rejoining the herd. With big, sad blue eyes, the digital Dumbo is impressively rendered, the human cast less so. Keaton hams it up like a pantomime villain, DeVito does either bluster or befuddled, Green lacks any spark and Farrell’s forgettable as the dad who doesn’t know how to respond to his kids, arguably best things on two legs . There’s a scene involving the original film’s tender song Baby Mine as well as a reference to When I See An Elephant Fly and a recreation of the surreal Pink Elephants on Parade using shape-shifting soap bubbles, but they never feel more than knowing nods. There are some individual moments of spectacle, but given Burton’s past work, imagination is mostly as thin on the ground here as is genuine emotion. 112 mins Also in 3D
LGWTC Guidance: You might believe an elephant can fly, but the film never does.
Captain Marvel (12A)
The first standalone female superhero in the cinematic Marvel Universe, Vers (a dynamite Brie Larson), is a Kree warrior, part of an elite group led by her mentor Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), engaged in her planet’s ongoing war with the shape-changing lizard-like Skrulls and their quest for galactic domination. Except she keeps having memories about a life she’s never had and of a scientist called Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) who turns up in dreams of both a plane and a shoot-out and whom, unfathomably, is also the shape taken by her visualisation of the Kree Supreme Intelligence, which manifests as someone important to you
As such, the film centres around her search to find her true identity, and how she’s linked to human test pilot named Carol Danvers who was killed in a crash six years ago, the central idea being that, like the Skrulls, things and people are not always what or who they appear to be.
The film’s set in 1995, as Vers finds herself marooned on Earth after an encounter with the Skrulls and seeking to reconnect with her squad, but not before eliminating the Skrulls who, led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), have also infiltrated the planet. As such there’s several jokes about Earth’s backwards technology while Vers’ explosive arrival attracts the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D in the form of a younger and still two-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as well as rookie recruit Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). With incontrovertible evidence of the existence of aliens, Fury joins forces with Vers who explains she has to locate Lawson’s secret lab and destroy the plans for a lightspeed engine before the Skrulls can get to it. All of which reconnects her with Danvers’ former fellow test pilot and single mom best friend, Maria (Lashana Lynch), and her smart kid daughter Monica (Akira Akbar).
Providing a back story to the The Avengers Initiative and the end credits linking to the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, the film balances potent character development and emotional core with the dynamic action sequences and special effects, misdirecting you as to who may or may not be the villains of the piece.
LGWTC guidance: In the midst of battle, Marvel breaks out into a big grin and shouts ‘Yeah’. You’ll feel like doing the same thing. 124 mins Also in 2D and 3D IMAX
Men In Black International (12A)
Originally a vehicle for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the franchise about a secret agency keeping Earth safe from ‘the scum of the universe’ gets a reboot, brining in the first female agent (Tessa Thompson) who’s sent to London by Agent O (Emma Thompson) to uncover a mole in the organisation, teaming up with Chris Hemsworth (in familiar bemused form) to tackle a series of alien attacks. Looks terrific. 115 mins
From Friday June 21
Toy Story 4 (U)
The fourth and final part, when Bonnie’s new favourite toy, a plastic spork called Forky, runs off, Woody (Tom hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of te gang set out to find him, a quest that will see Woody reunited with the long-lost and now decidedly feistier Bo Peep (Annie Potts). However, as they talk about the old days, it soon becomes clear that they’re world apart in what they want from life as a toy. Featuring additional new characters action figure Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves) and the joined at the paw Bunny (Jordan Peele) and Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key), word is that you’ll need several boxes of tissues to wipe away those tears of laughter and sadness. 100 mins
Not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.